This wall installation, first exhibited in Walker’s 1994 New York debut, inaugurated the artist’s signature medium: black cut-out silhouettes of caricatures of antebellum figures arranged on a white wall in uncanny, sexual, and violent scenarios. In reviving the eighteenth-century cut-paper silhouette to critique historical narratives of slavery and the ongoing perpetuation of ethnic stereotypes, Walker has transformed the craft into a new type of epic history painting.
In the work’s elaborate title, “Gone” refers to Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel Gone with the Wind, set during the American Civil War. While Walker’s narrative begins and ends with coupled figures, the chain of tragicomic, turbulent imagery refutes the promise of romance and confounds conventional attributions of power and oppression. “The history of America is built on … inequality, this foundation of a racial inequality and a social inequality,” the artist has said. “And we buy into it. I mean, whiteness is just as artificial a construct as blackness is.“1
Gallery label from Contemporary Art from the Collection, June 30, 2010–September 12, 2011.